Flaming Lips dazzles with light, sound and love at Stage AE

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Wayne Coyne didn't wait for the lights to go down at Stage AE Tuesday night.

The Flaming Lips singer walked out, in an electric blue suit, and took his spot high on the center podium before the crew even finished the half-hour process of erecting the band's elaborate lighting tentacles. Yes, tentacles.

He had every reason to be confident that his premature entrance wouldn't detract from the visual dazzle of the band's stage production, one that looked like it was snagged from a big-budget alien movie.

Having been here in the spring to open for The Black Keys, this was the Oklahoma City band's second visit on "The Terror" tour, a departure from the band's usual birthday-party atmosphere. As a matter of fact, early on, the confetti blew a funereal black through the fog.

The frontman stayed fixed on his podium as the stage seemingly blazed to life while the band, led by guitarist Steven Drozd, shot off its own cinematic sparks. Flaming Lips made a very bummed-out album with "The Terror," and although it had a big part in the set, the show was anything but a bummer.

The band rocked "The Terror" songs harder, more percussively and more beautifully live and Mr. Coyne broke the tension with his trippy humor.

"You have to sing sad songs," he said at one point. "Those are the songs that are so inside you. ... But we don't want make anyone sad, so I'm glad you guys are in such a [messed] up mood."

He suggested that the crowd "come to our rescue" during the sad songs by making noise. One of those was "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton," letting the band go prog-tastic while he soared to the heavens with a high thin vocal that stopped abruptly and looped on "LOVE..LOVE..LOVE.." Fans of "The Soft Bulletin" also got "Race for the Prize," and the Lips added a noisy cover of DEVO's "Gates of Steel."

They tapped "At War with the Mystics" for scorching psych-rocker "The W.A.N.D." and "Yoshimi" for a dreamy "Do You Realize??" In the end, the band's engine revved the hardest for "The Terror" closer and set finale "Always There, In Our Hearts" -- something that Flaming Lips certainly is with its loving fanbase.

Spiritualized went about its space rock with no visual fanfare whatsoever. In fact, singer-guitarist Jason "Spaceman" Pierce didn't even stand up, so the look was static. But the British quintet, which hadn't played Pittsburgh in over a decade, heated up into a rhythmic powerhouse after starting many of the songs as drones.

A glance at a set list might have tricked you into thinking the set was mostly covers. It wasn't. "Let's Dance" was a moody lament, "Let it Flow" was an emotional tour de force, "Come Together" was a sonic rush and "She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)" put a metal riff on a furious psych-rock jam. There wasn't a weak song in the hour-long set.

Tobacco, of Black Moth Super Rainbow, opened with a low-key set of warped electronic dance music accompanied by a set of backup dancers who didn't dance. The four men stood there in orange masks and blonde wigs looking dour and hanging their heads while Tobacco and his female partner twisted the knobs.

Mr. Coyne offered his own assessment of the bill, calling it a "spectacular once-in-a lifetime day in Pittsburgh. We had the weirdos from Tobacco show up and play. ... The Flaming Lips might not even exist if not for Jason Spaceman. We love him so much."

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Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576. First Published July 17, 2013 4:15 AM


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